The Refashioning Checklist, or, six garments I need to chop up

One of the great benefits of sewing is being able to take a pair of scissors to an unwanted garment and create something worth wearing.

That’s the logic, anyway. But more often than not, I’ll buy or adopt something second-hand with the best refashioning intentions – yet it ends up at the bottom of my wardrobe all the same. Usually, it’s discarded in favour of a sewing project with new and shiny fabric. As Zoe pointed out recently, adding to the stash is not that much different to buying new.

To remedy this, I’ve rummaged in the deepest depths of my darkest drawers to find six items I need to refashion, pronto, lest they be banished to the wardrobe whirlpool until they get eaten by moths or something.

They include second-hand purchases I’ve since had second thought about, donated items, found items and even a very recent me-made. The main thing is, I can’t just leave these unworn in my wardrobe much longer – otherwise, what’s the point of having them at all?

The 80s hangover blouse

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Me Made May ’13 – A celebration of all things refashioning

Last minute to the party, as per usual. Count me in for Me Made May ’13! Woohoo!

me-made-may'13

Now, as many of you know, last year I was a scatty student who could justifiably spend all day indoors “revising” in some of my more questionable makes. These days, I’m an actual grown-up who needs to look somewhat presentable.

Why oh why is past Len such a slapdash sewist? Last year, I found myself rummaging in my drawers for makes I had long since written off because they were a bit rubbish. I’m sure the same will happen again this year.

For the sake of maintaining a professional wardrobe in the office, I plan on including refashioned and second-hand items along with my me-mades – I was lucky enough to get a good haul of office-appropriate garments in Guildford, which means I shan’t be caught short in the mad morning rush for work.

Without further ado, here is the pledge:

 I, Elena of seamlessblog.wordpress.com, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May ’13. I endeavour to wear at least one me-made, refashioned or second hand item each day for the duration of May 2013. To document my challenge, I shall tweet/instagram/flickr/facebook the bejeezus out of my daily outfits, even if it means taking mirror pics in work’s loos. I will also endeavour to make my way and finish all of the refashions I haven’t quite got around to and document how I did so, even if I mess it up.

It’s no blogging every day for May, but I’ll sure as hell be tweeting. You can follow me on Instagram or Flickr too for daily outfit posts and I’ll collate them each Sunday here on the blog.

And did you spot the little extra I popped in there? That’s right, I’ve got a whole bundle of refashions to get through. They’re mostly things I’ve bought or have been given with the best intentions of refashioning, yet haven’t quite got around to it just yet. Here’s a sneak peek at one, as modelled by my lovely new mannequin (who will have an introduction post soon, promise!)

80sshirt.jpg

Isn’t it just delightfully HIDEOUS?! It used to have shoulder pads. I was one perm away from being an ’80s throwback when I tried this bad boy on.

Alright, hands up – who’s doing Me Made May this year?

Featured Pledger: Vicki Kate (Vicki Kate Makes)

Seamless’ second featured pledger is Vicki Kate, who’s midway through her pledge and has some serious stitching skills. Can you believe her dress is made from two bedsheets? Have a read about her pledge experiences:

Name: Vicki Kate

Website: http://vickikatemakes.wordpress.com

One year, from 30th birthday to 31st on the 24 Nov ’12 – new decade, new lifestyle commitment!

Why did you take the Seamless Pledge?

It was a mixture of fortuitous timing in discovering the pledge and wanting to take more responsibility for our world just as I hit 30. Being a Mum has completely changed my perspective on pretty much everything.  I need to lead by example to ensure my son grows up with a sense of responsibility, not just to his immediate community but the worldwide one too. It also gives me incentive (which is now habit) to shop second hand, search charity stores and eBay rather than buying new.  My sewing of garments has gone up a gear too, which was part of the plan!

What impact has the pledge had on your day-to-day life?

I’m a much more thoughtful shopper and not just when it comes to clothing. It’s spread to my grocery shopping (with regards to origin rather than it being pre-loved!) and also made me go to my fabric stash rather than shops for my material. I am so envious of the estate sale and thrift store hauls our US friends score! There’s nothing like that in my experience in Norfolk, UK. A positive is my limited funds go further.

Any tips for someone wanting to give up mass-made clothing?

Examine what you wear! I bet it’s 10% of your total. Look for items that work with that 10% but limit where you look.  If you freak out about charity shops (my sister does), go for eBay as, while you’ll pay more, there is better choice.  Also, develop some patience as sometimes you have to look for a while to find what you want. I’m still looking for the perfect red Mary Jane shoes!  Failing that, learn to sew! But that in itself leads to other consumer issues.

I’d heartily recommend Zoe’s blog for someone wanting to know how to live sustainably and Miss P’s blog for refashioning tips to make those charity shop finds perfect. Finally, train yourself to look beyond a garment’s (or pattern for that matter) first appearance. With a little ingenuity that granny tartan skirt could be amazing! 

Make sure you check out Vicki Kate’s blog for more on her creations. Want to be a featured pledger? Get in touch. 

Me Made May ’12 – Blast from the past

Have you ever refashioned one of your own creations from when you were a beginner?

I’ve already written about one of mine and I’ve got a few others in the works, but I wondered what everyone thought about possibly doing a refashioning challenge of Me-Mades we’ve fallen out of love with?

Yesterday’s Me Made outfit is a case in point, when I wore a make from way back when I began sewing.

This little number happens to be the second dress I ever made, and oh boy, does it show. Well, on the inside that is. It’s funny how finishing seams didn’t really occur to me back then.

Using a mix of BurdaStyle’s Marie pattern and a contour bust tutorial on the site, I made the dress out of some vintage fabric I scored on eBay and some green polycotton fabric I found somewhere way back when. I have to say, I’m not sure entirely how much I like this dress nowadays.

I’m a big fan of the top (which happens to fit me a lot better now I’ve, er, filled out a bit, so to speak!) but the bottom half just isn’t as flattering as I’d like. It’s a little more tapered than I’d like it to be, but I’m not about to throw it out just yet!

If anything, it seems to be yet another contender for refashioning. In fact, it’s added to a long list of refashions I have by now, including my now-ripped leopard print Sorbetto.

With Me Made May and my journalism course coming to an end soon, I was thinking of running some sort of refashioning challenge this Summer. Would anyone be interested?

I’ve already got a few more Seamless features in the pipeline, so I’m thinking of doing it in perhaps July or August. Let me know what you think!

Apologies for the briefer blog posts of late – I still have a few hefty exams coming up. I actually don’t finish until June 13!

Cardiff charity shops are already doing what Mary Portas wants

charity shop oxfam boutique

The Portas Review was released this week, outlining Mary “Queen of Shops” Portas’s recommendations to brighten up the UK’s failing high streets.

What Portas wants for the British high street is a vibrant sense of community – but I’ve noticed a couple of charity shops here in Cardiff are already working towards this.

Just a load of second-hand junk?

It’s difficult to find a British high street without at least one charity shop. In fact, it was rumoured Portas would recommend a cap on charity shops, something which wasn’t taken well by the Charity Retail Association.

In the end, Portas hasn’t recommended this cap, but it was clear she saw an abundance of charity shops as one sign of a high street in decline. She said:

“When a high street has too much of one thing it tips the balance of the location and inevitably puts off potential retailers and investors. Too many charity shops on one high street are an obvious example of this. Funnily enough, too many fried chicken shops have the same effect.”
Despite having her own line of charity shops, Portas pretty much puts them in the same category as the kind of eateries on Chippy Lane. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Caroline Street in Cardiff – it ain’t classy.

Does she have a point?

You obviously know how much I love charity shops, but what did my Twitter followers think?

https://twitter.com/#!/sprinklecone/status/147007511734657024

https://twitter.com/#!/sarahditum/status/146922893677309952

https://twitter.com/#!/mirshad/status/147012881089699840

You can read the other responses in this Storify!

Overall, their attitudes are pretty positive, yet there is still this overriding perception of charity shops being full of other people’s unwanted items.

How are charity shops doing compared to the rest of the high street?

what do you do with your old clothes?

Research suggests British charity shops are having as tough a time as everyone else on the high street. When I asked you what happens to your old clothes, 64 per cent of you said you donated them to charity, yet some shops are struggling to keep up with demand.

The Charity Retail Association conducts their own research into donation trends and have seen how the recession has affected both sales and donations. After all, if people are buying less clothes in general, then they may not be donating as much.

According to the Charity Retail Assocation’s Projects and Policy Officer, Isabelle Adam, some of the larger charities have had a few problems in this department due to the recession. She said:

“Over the last quarter (July-Sept) the larger charities we surveyed have reported problems with getting sufficient stock. Donations are affected by peoples’ spending habits; if they are not buying in new they are often not prompted to donate, and if they cannot afford to move this also means there is no prompt for a clear-out.”

Charity shops with a difference

It seems then charity shops have double the problem to deal with! But here in Cardiff, there are two clear examples of charity shops who are using innovation and a touch of the crafting spirit to shake off this negative perception.

Best of all? The kind of projects they’re engaging in are the kind Portas wants to see for the entire high street.

Oxfam Boutique in CardiffCase study number one comes in the form of Oxfam Boutique, situated in the heart of Cardiff city centre. One of a new breed of charity shops, Oxfam Boutique concentrates on high-end charitable donations.

I spoke to Deputy Manager Alec Boyne about the shop, its partnership with Marks and Spencers and their weekly Stitch ‘n Bitch group.

Prefab Clothing on Albany Road, CardiffThen we have PreFab Clothing, a retro style charity shop a little outside of Cardiff on Albany Road. When I chatted to David Morris, who works in the store, he emphasised how the shop didn’t fit the traditional mould of a charity shop.

All of PreFab Clothing’s proceeds go directly to the local YMCA project. In fact, David told me he’d gone from having no job and no house seven months ago to a steady job and a home today, all through PreFab Clothing.

Images courtesy of PreFab Clothing’s Facebook page

There’s one other key aspect to these shops, one which Portas entirely ignores in her report. The fact is, they are playing a vital role in ensuring old clothing doesn’t just end up in South Wales’s swelling landfills.


Recycling at PreFab Clothing

Oxfam Boutique’s partnership with M&S ensures a lot of clothing from a busy department store do not go to waste. PreFab Clothing aim to use everything they receive – whether it’s turning old superhero t-shirts into bags or making pumpkin decorations from unwanted materials.

It’s pretty clear charity shops don’t have to be the kind of places which arrive on a high street when no other retailer can take up some empty space. Oxfam Boutique and PreFab Clothing are more than just placeholders – they’re vibrant parts of the community which do more than just take care of our old tat.

What about the rest of you? Is there a really unique charity shop in your area? If you’d like to write a profile of a stand-out charity shop in your area, email me or comment below.